The RMA Quality Planning Resource

Most first generation regional and district plans in use in New Zealand generally fall into one of six basic plan-types.

1. Area-based plans

The area management approach could best be thought of as a series of plans rather than a single plan. Each 'sub-plan' covers a particular geographic area that may have been delineated from others by physical, geographic, political, ecological, or historical characteristics.

Each 'sub-plan' could be developed at the same time as the others, or sequentially. They may be identical in layout and organisation or could differ in approach as a reflection of the characteristics of the area being planned for, or as each new plan builds on lessons in previous plans.

Description

The area management approach could best be thought of as a series of plans rather than a single plan. Each 'sub-plan’ covers a particular geographic area that may have been delineated from others by physical, geographic, political, ecological, or historical characteristics.

Each 'sub-plan’ could be developed at the same time as the others, or sequentially. They may be identical in layout and organisation or could differ in approach as a reflection of the characteristics of the area being planned for, or as each new plan builds on lessons in previous plans (as demonstrated here).

Sample organisation

Management Area 1 Coast

Management Area 2 Plains

Management Area 3 Hills

Introduction

Contents

How to use this plan

  • General Resource Management Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Rules

Development Controls

  • Definitions
  • Rules

Noise, Signs and Lighting

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Environmental results expected
  • Methods
  • Rules

Financial Contributions

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Anticipated results
  • Methods
  • Rules

Transportation

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Environmental results expected
  • Methods
  • Rules

Appendices

Maps

Introduction

  • Contents
  • How to use this plan

Town Centre Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Environmental results expected

Rural Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Environmental results expected

Residential Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Environmental results expected

Definitions

General Provisions

  • Heritage provisions
  • Network utilities
  • Transportation

Appendices

Maps

Introduction

  • Contents
  • How to use this plan

Resource Management Issue 1

  • Issue statement
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Environmental results expected

Resource Management Issue 2

  • Issue statement
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Expected Environmental results

Resource Management Issue 3

  • Issue statement
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Rules
  • Expected environmental results

Definitions

General Provisions

Appendices

Maps

Advantages

  • Lessons learnt from the first sub-plans to be developed can be applied to subsequent sub-plans.
  • The size of each sub-plan can be relatively small as each sub-plan does not need to contain the provisions that relate solely to the other sub-plans.
  • Challenges made to a sub-plan in one area may not affect the sub-plans of other areas (so the unaffected sub-plans may be operative earlier).
  • Each sub-plan could be produced quicker than a single large plan (less provisions to be included in each sub-plan, and also less material open to challenge).
  • Better able to reflect local interest and attitudes (each sub-plan can adopt local variations to provisions without the need for a complex series of sub-zones, policy areas, or rule exceptions).

Disadvantages

  • Each plan may adopt a different style, format, internal organisation, or way of expressing provisions (thereby increasing overall complexity of administration).
  • May be difficult to integrate or promote standardised approaches that cross the boundaries administered by several sub-plans.
  • The environmental management of some areas may lag behind others (due to some sub-plans being proposed or made operative ahead of others working under older, previous, plans). This may result in inconsistencies in policy frameworks, desired outcomes, or a poor level of integration in responding to district/region wide issues.
  • Vulnerability to conflicting (or misalignment of) desired outcomes and provisions at the interface where the area administered by one sub-plan abuts another.
  • May be more complex to administer for the consent authority if staff are based in a central office (they may need to have intimate knowledge of several sub-plans and how each works).
  • Using a definition section for each sub-plan may cause inconsistencies and confusion.

2. Topic-based plans

Topic-based plans tend to be based around dealing with a single issue, or a specific group of issues associated with a particular topic (such as on-site effluent management). In New Zealand they are often associated with the first generation of regional plans.

A variation on the topic-based plan is the comprehensive topic-based plan. Such plans may deal with a series of topics in sequential fashion, with each topic being (sometimes entirely) contained in a discrete section or chapter within one overall document. Such an approach is increasingly being used by regional councils and unitary authorities.

Description

Topic-based plans tend to be based around dealing with a single issue, or a specific group of issues associated with a particular topic (such as on-site effluent management). In New Zealand they are often associated with the first generation of regional plans.

A variation on the topic-based plan is the comprehensive topic-based plan. Such plans may deal with a series of topics in sequential fashion, with each topic being (sometimes entirely) contained in a discrete section or chapter within one overall document. Such an approach is increasingly being used by regional councils and unitary authorities.

Sample organisation

Table of Contents

Resource Description: Air Quality

Introduction

  • Purpose of plan
  • Plan preparation process
  • Plan structure

Statutory Framework

  • Resource Management Act
  • Functions of Regional Council
  • Other regional plans
  • District plans

Iwi Perspective

Management Approach

  • Role of Air Quality Guidelines and Codes of Practice
  • Best Practicable Option
  • Education and provision of Information

Significant Air Quality Issues

  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Principal reasons for adopting objectives, policies and methods

Rules

  • Rules for discharges to air
  • Rules for discharges of contaminants to air from industrial premises
  • Information requirements
  • Assessment criteria

Administrative Matters

  • Notification and non-notification
  • Joint hearings
  • Duration of resource consents
  • Objections and appeals

Bonds and Financial Contributions

  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Circumstances and purposes for which financial contributions may be required

Definitions

Appendices and Maps

Advantages

  • A topic-based plan is able to deal with effects in a transparent manner as provisions are clearly linked to the specific topic or issue the plan covers.
  • Each individual plan can be smaller than one large plan (less intimidating for the plan reader).
  • Plans can be developed with relatively limited resources (as not every topic has to be researched and developed at once).
  • Each individual plan can cover a lot of detail relating to the issue, and the methods by which the issue is to be managed. (This may not be so practicable in the comprehensive topic model due to the resulting size.)

Disadvantages

  • The approach may result in a large number of individual plans (if not combined into a comprehensive topic model). This may mean that it becomes easy to miss linkages with other plans that may have a bearing on a particular development or resource use proposal.
  • Research and the development of policy for some topic areas may lag behind others, so that at times policy is not compatible or fully integrated, or all effects on the environment are not able to be managed.
  • Less suitable for district plans or regional plans that have to deal with many wide-ranging issues, issues that are closely interrelated, or those that require a strategic overview approach for their management.
  • Plans may vary in style, wording, and organisation over time. This may result in added complexity and confusion in their administration.
  • Applicants with complex proposals may find themselves having to deal with several plans (adding to complexity, bulk, or the likelihood that provisions will be missed).

3. Self-contained zone plans

This type of plan is related to the 'area-based plans’ in that each chapter is similar to being a small plan in itself. All policy framework elements and rules applying to a particular zone are contained in discrete chapters that can be read without having to cross-reference to any other part of the plan other than planning maps. Some regional councils approached the management of certain issues or areas in a similar fashion in the past but derivations of it are more commonly found amongst district plans.

Description

This type of plan is related to the 'area-based plans’ in that each chapter is similar to being a small plan in itself. All policy framework elements and rules applying to a particular zone are contained in discrete chapters that can be read without having to cross-reference to any other part of the plan other than planning maps. Some regional councils approached the management of certain issues or areas in a similar fashion in the past but derivations of it are more commonly found amongst district plans.

Sample layout

Introduction

Policy and legal framework

Statement of tangata whenua values

Residential Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Environmental results expected
  • Rules for subdivision and development
  • Rules for natural and man-made heritage
  • Rules for transportation and parking
  • Rules for hazards and hazardous substances
  • Financial contributions
  • Definitions

Rural Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Environmental results expected
  • Anticipated environmental results
  • Rules for subdivision and development
  • Rules for natural and man-made heritage
  • Rules for transportation and parking
  • Rules for hazards and hazardous substances
  • Financial contributions
  • Definitions

Commercial Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods
  • Environmental results expected
  • Rules for subdivision and development
  • Rules for natural and man-made heritage
  • Rules for transportation and parking
  • Rules for hazards and hazardous substances
  • Financial contributions
  • Definitions

Maps

Advantages

  • Self-contained zone plans are seen as user-friendly because all the rules pertaining to a particular area are contained in a single chapter without the need to look elsewhere in the plan.
  • Helps ensure integrated management of all environmental issues within a zone by reducing the potential for cross-references to other chapters being missed.
  • Able to accommodate local variations in circumstances within zones without complicated exceptions or tables.
  • Provides the ability for the plan to be split up into sections at the front counter (like a series of mini plans) so that customers need only see the section that applies to their zone.

Disadvantages

  • These plans can be bulky due to repetition of common provisions in every chapter or zone; having a definition section in each chapter may lead to inconsistencies or confusion.
  • The addition of new zones or management areas increases plan bulk further (as all district or region-wide provisions needed to be repeated again).
  • Increased care is needed to ensure that region or district-wide issues are covered in every zone (thereby avoiding 'holes’ where issues could slip through).
  • Potential for inconsistencies in provisions and approaches to occur when dealing with effects that cross zone boundaries;
  • Plan changes to common provisions will need to be followed though all zones or chapters, with any alteration able to be challenged (so that there could be multiple challenges, or a challenge to the provision in one zone resulting in provisions that consequently become out of step with provisions in the others).

4. Activity-based plans

Activity-based plans centre on known activity types, or clusters of activities, and how they are to be managed. The approach is often used in conjunction with one of the other plan typologies such as 'zone' or 'topic-based' plans (and can therefore be seen in both regional and territorial council environments). This plan is based around activity types on the basis that certain effects are known to be associated with certain activities.

Description

Activity-based plans centre on known activity types, or clusters of activities, and how they are to be managed. The approach is often used in conjunction with one of the other plan typologies such as 'zone' or 'topic-based' plans (and can therefore be seen in both regional and territorial council environments). This plan is based around activity types on the basis that certain effects are known to be associated with certain activities.

Sample layouts

Contents

General
Definitions
Notification 
Information requirements

Issues, Objectives, Policies and Methods

  • Tangata whenua
  • Natural environment
  • Rural development
  • Urban development
  • Infrastructure

Residential Activity Rules

  • Noise, light and vibration
  • Bulk and location of structures
  • Home-based businesses
  • Car parking and traffic generation
  • Advertising

Manufacturing Activity Rules

  • Noise, light and vibration
  • Hazardous substances
  • Parking and access
  • Advertising

Sport and Recreation Activity Rules

  • Financial contributions for development
  • Noise, light and vibration
  • Bulk and location of structures
  • Advertising
  • Temporary events

Subdivision Rules

  • Allotment size
  • Existing buildings
  • Hazards
  • Esplanade reserves

General Rules

  • Heritage sites and protected trees
  • Indigenous forest

Appendices

  • Schedules of heritage resources
  • HFSP procedures

Maps

Contents

Introduction

  • Character of the coast
  • Ecology
  • Use and development

Background

  • Plan preparation process
  • Legislation
  • NZCPS

Management Approach - Use and Development

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods of implementation
  • Principal reasons

Management Approach - Marine Management

  • Issues
  • Objectives
  • Policies
  • Methods of implementation
  • Principal reasons

Rules:

  • Recreational activities
  • Temporary military training
  • Structures for navigation and telecommunications
  • Reclamations
  • Stormwater discharges
  • Sewage discharges
  • Discharges to air
  • Taking or use of water
  • Dredging and spoil disposal
  • Moorings, marinas and boat refueling
  • Boat painting and maintenance
  • Signs
  • Marine farming
  • Sand extraction

General Performance Standards

Definitions

Appendices

Schedules

Advantages

  • User-friendly (in that the plan is based around known activities and terms that many people readily identify with).
  • It can be easier to check the activity status and see the standards that may apply to a proposal.

Disadvantages

  • The reasoning for provisions may be less transparent (it can be harder to see the link back to the effects that are to be managed).
  • The plan may not deal appropriately with activities not envisaged during drafting (for example activities that should be 'permitted’ become subject to consent processes as they were not listed, or activities that needed to be subject to resource consent are not).
  • Can result in lengthy lists of activities.
  • Much depends on the definition of each activity and there can be debates as to whether certain activities (or derivations thereof) fit within those definitions.

5. Effects-based plans

As their name suggests, these are plans based around environmental effects rather than the activities that generate them (so that the type of activity that is managed may not actually be mentioned) For convenience some plans group effects into management areas based on the perceived acceptability of the effects in that area or the particular values to be maintained.

Description

As their name suggests, these are plans based around environmental effects rather than the activities that generate them (so that the type of activity that is managed may not actually be mentioned) For convenience some plans group effects into management areas based on the perceived acceptability of the effects in that area or the particular values to be maintained.

Sample organisation

Contents

The City's Environment

Maps (water resources, landscapes and landforms, vegetation)

Tangata Whenua

Issue - Effects on Water Quality

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Issue - Effects on Native Vegetation and Fauna

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Issue - Effects on Land

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Issue - Effects on Ecosystem Stability

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Issue - Effects on Amenity Values, Health and Safety

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Issue - Effects on Heritage

  • Objectives, policies, methods
  • Monitoring indicators and environmental results expected

Explanation of Objectives Policies and Methods

City-wide Rules (including definitions, information requirements and prohibited activities)

Natural Environment Rules

  • Vegetation alteration
  • Earthworks
  • Impermeable surfaces
  • Buildings

Human Environment Rules

  • Residential density
  • Building location, height and scale
  • Privacy and amenity
  • Non residential uses
  • Car parking and driveways
  • Noise
  • Signs
  • Infrastructure

Note that the above rules are duplicated across the following:

  • Living environment
  • Open space environment
  • Community environment
  • Working environment
  • Countryside environment
  • Coastal villages environment

Scheduled Sites

Special Areas

Subdivision Rules

Maps

Advantages

  • Management techniques are more directly linked to the environmental effects they seek to manage (i.e. the plan starts with the effects that are to be managed and provisions are allocated to those effects as appropriate). This is consistent with the philosophy of the RMA being an 'effects-based’ statute.
  • The plan is adaptable to new activities not originally anticipated by the local authority (i.e. there is potential to accommodate any activity provided the effects of the activity are managed in accordance with the plan).

Disadvantages

  • Those checking whether an activity complies with a plan may need to read all or most of the plan to determine whether a resource consent is required, and what for.
  • Reading and working out the implications of the plan can be difficult for the public (effects-based decision-making does not provide for quick and easy answers at the front counter or over the phone).
  • There may be lack of certainty for applicants who do not understand or have information on all the effects that may relate to their proposal.
  • Plan drafters need to be certain that all possible effects have been considered to avoid undesirable activities becoming permitted through oversight.
  • Requires good information on all effects types and thresholds of what is acceptable in any given area.

6. Hybrid-plans

This style of organisation represents the most common approach to district plans. Some issues are dealt with issue by issue (typically where they occur throughout a district regardless of activity type or zone) while others are zone-related, with certain issues and management solutions being dealt with solely within a zone or management area. Such plans also tend to mix the zone-based and activity-based organisational styles.

These six types represent a simplification of styles and approaches and in reality most plans incorporate some features from more than one type. 'Activity-based plans’ still incorporate standards relating to environmental effects, and 'effects-based plans’ still use some form of spatial differentiation ('zones', 'environments’ or 'management areas') to detail where certain effects are more or less acceptable, for example.

Of the six plan types outlined, the topic-based model was the style most commonly used by regional councils for first generation regional plans, while the hybrid model was most commonly used by territorial authorities in preparing their district plans.

Hybrid plans allow for region or district-wide issues to be incorporated into the same plan as localised issues without repeating provisions in each zone or area-based chapter. Those issues that are found throughout a region or district can be incorporated into 'general chapters’ and be cross-referenced from other parts of the plan; those issues specific to an area, zone or (in the case of regional plans) possibly district can be dealt with in discrete chapters that relate solely to those areas. As councils look at preparing combined planning documents, it is likely that their plans will also bear an increased resemblance to the hybrid style.

Description

This style of organisation represents the most common approach to district plans. Some issues are dealt with issue by issue (typically where they occur throughout a district regardless of activity type or zone) while others are zone-related, with certain issues and management solutions being dealt with solely within a zone or management area. Such plans also tend to mix the zone-based and activity-based organisational styles.

Sample layout

Introduction

Definitions

Tangata Whenua

General

  • Information requirements
  • Signs
    • Issues
    • Objectives and policies
    • Methods and rules
  • Noise
    • Issues
    • Objectives and policies
    • Methods and rules

Subdivision

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods
  • Rules for residential zones
  • Rules for business zones
  • Rules for recreational zones
  • Rule for rural zones

Residential Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods and rules

Business Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods and rules

Recreation Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods and rules

Rural Zone

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods and rules

Transportation

  • Issues
  • Objectives and policies
  • Methods and rules

Utilities and Designations

Maps

Advantages

  • Easy to ensure consistency and integration within the plan through having all issues dealt with in the same document, with cross-referencing between chapters or sections as necessary.
  • Less repetitious than self-contained zone plans as issues and management solutions common to the whole district or region can be placed in specific district or region-wide issues chapters.
  • Rules that apply to certain activity types are able to be found more quickly than in effects-based plans (more friendly for people who read and use plans on an irregular basis).
  • Provides greater certainty for most uses than purely effects-based plans (as activities that are permitted or that require resource consent are often named).
  • More capable of dealing with interface issues than zone-based plans or area-management plans.

Disadvantages

  • Relies on cross-referencing to be thorough and accurate to avoid issues and effects being missed.
  • Needs rigour applied to its structure and order to avoid it becoming a confused mix of styles.